Why Gen Tumwine’s body won’t lie in Parliament

UPDF officers load the casket containing the remains of former Security minister Gen Elly Tumwine into a hearse at Entebbe airport on August 16, 2022. PHOTO/ STEPHEN OTAGE 

What you need to know:

  • A Taps call will, in line with military tradition, ring out followed by a 17-gun salute to honour Gen Tumwine’s service to army and country.  

The body of former Security minister, Gen Elly Tumwine, will not lie in state at Parliament for lawmakers to pay last tribute to him, despite having been an MP for 34 years.

Up until when he succumbed to lung cancer at Aga Khan Hospital in Nairobi, Kenya, last week, Gen Tumwine was a four-star UPDF general, who represented the institution in Parliament (including the National Resistance Council).

His legislative tenure ended last May with the lapse of the 10th Parliament.

“We were advised not to [take the body to Parliament]. In the military, we work by orders,” the UPDF spokesperson, Brig Felix Kulayigye, said without naming the person who issued the instructions.  

Relatives and friends last evening converged for a vigil at his Kampala home in Nakasero ahead of today’s official funeral at Kololo Ceremonial Grounds where President Museveni is expected to attend.

Dr Chris Baryomunsi, the Information minister and government spokesman, communicated the “official funeral programme” in a circular referenced ADM 70/108/01 in which he noted that today’s national prayers at Kololo will start at 10am.

The body will be flown to the deceased’s ancestral home in Rwebikoma in Kazo District, according to a military source, by an army helicopter ahead of the general’s burial there tomorrow.

After the funeral service, UPDF generals will wheel the casket containing the remains of their comrade-in-arms to the grave and place it on a lowering device. 

A Taps call will, in line with military tradition, ring out followed by a 17-gun salute to honour Gen Tumwine’s service to army and country.  

“He will get full military honours and salutes during the burial,” Brig Kulayigye said of the soldier-cum-politician and artist-turned-artiste.

In response to our inquiries why Gen Tumwine’s body was not lying in state, Mr Chris Obore, the Parliament spokesman, last evening said the law grants such automatic honour to incumbent MPs. 

The former army commander ceased being a parliamentarian in May 2021.
“For other state dignitaries who aren’t MPs, [lying in state request] can only be a decision of the state communicated to the Speaker [of Parliament]. In this case [of Gen Tumwine], the Speaker has not received such communication. That means the state has other plans,” Mr Obore said.

He added: “For Tumwine, he has [for most of] his life been in Parliament; so, there would be a strong case for [his body] to lie in state]. But that decision isn’t for Parliament to make.”

Dr Baryomunsi’s announcement of “official funeral programme” and the military’s lead role, alongside family, suggests the general’s interment tomorrow will follow church rites, government protocol, family tradition and military honours.

Gen Tumwine, referred in UPDF as RO 00023, his enlistment number as a National Resistance Army rebel, was number two of the six original members of the Uganda People’s Defence Forces High Command.

Yesterday, Brig Kulayigye said the special session in Parliament for lawmakers to eulogise the general will be held after his burial.

He was a senior presidential adviser on Security by the time of his demise.

Like in death, Tumwine has split the country into admirers and critics. The less-than-charitable comments by netizens, some who openly celebrated the general’s passing on, prompted Agriculture minister Frank Tumwebaze to call those gloating to “sober up”.

“Folks, it’s not that all citizens celebrate death of government leaders. It’s those known political actors that h[a]v[e] promoted radicalism & hate as a political ideology. Unfortunately, or fortunately, death is an equaliser.

Nobody is immortal. Let’s sober up no matter our divergent views,” he tweeted at 10:21pm on August 25. He named no one. Moments after President Museveni announced Gen Tumwine’s death last Thursday, multiple critics seized on his previous comments, in defence of the killings of civilians during the November 2020 protests, that police had a right to “shoot, to kill you, if you reach a certain level of violence” to proclaim “good riddance”.  

Earlier yesterday, Christians of Mukuru Church of Uganda in Rwemikoma Sub-county, Kazo, held service at the Bush war hero’s home.

The Rev Benon Mbaraire, who led the prayers, said the late had mentored many people in the district and was a big pillar of the church.

“He has been a good Christian leader and a mentor of this parish and in the greater North Ankole Diocese. He was saved, a good mobiliser, and a missioner,” he said. 

The prelate also said Gen Tumwine had started construction of Mukuru Church of Uganda, and asked President Museveni to ensure that the project is completed.

Burial policy

In a December 18, 2019 statement Parliament, Public Service minister Wilson Muruli Mukasa said then that there was no National Burial Policy to harmonise and regulate state and official funerals.

“I would like to inform you that the draft national burial policy is in place and shall soon be submitted toCabinet for approval upon which you will be informed accordingly,” he added. We were unable to establish if Cabinet has approved the rules, which are expected to specify the criteria and government spend per official burial.

Additional reporting by Precious Delilah & Felix Ainebyoona


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